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Parashat Vayeshev


Rabbi Hayyim Sinwani

Once during Hannukah a few young men rented a car and decided to visit the graves of ssadikim. Along the way, they turned off the road to see the great ssadik, Rav Hayyim Sinwani zs"l. The ssadik greeted them warmly and gave them his blessing. As they were leaving, he handed one of the boys a copy of the book "Yemei Hannukah" and instructed him to study the book during the trip and return it to him on the way back from Meron. The student told him that he had already brought books with him for the trip - in fulfillment of the missvah to study "as you go along the way" - but the ssadik insisted that he study specifically this sefer and return it to him on their way back.

And so the car made it way up north, and the young man did as he was told. He studied the book the entire ride, and the group visited the graves of ssadikim in Teveryah, Ssefat and Meron. As night fell, they started heading back. As the skies darkened, the passengers fell asleep and the driver, too, began feeling the onset of fatigue. In his weariness, he didn't notice the elevated platform in front of them as they crossed Haifa, and the car headed towards it at full speed. The car hit the elevation straight on and overturned.

Then the miracle occurred. One by one the passengers came out of the overturned car, in shock but without any scratches or wounds. They took a moment to recover from the trauma and then joined together to turn the car back right side up. The car stood on it wheels and, to their amazement, they did not see a single mark of damage on the car - it was perfectly intact! They waited a bit to regain their strength and then continued as if nothing had happened. They concluded that the merit of their study of the Hannukah, the miracle that occurred in those days, at this time of year - and the fact that the ssadik sent them as "sheluhei missvah" to bring him the sefer upon their return - is what guaranteed their safety.


A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at

Chapter 25: The Halachot of Tefillin

Ssissit and Tefillin - Which Takes Precedence?

If one sees that if he takes the time to put on tallit and tefillin at home he will not be among the first ten people in Bet Kenesset, such as if the congregation begins arriving very early to Bet Kenesset, before the time for ssissit and tefillin, it is still preferable to put on tallit and tefillin at home. He should then fulfill the missvah of being among the first ten people in Bet Kenesset at minhah.

Placing Tefillin After Birchot Hashahar and Birchot HaTorah

The Rosh was accustomed to saying birchot hashahar until the berachah of "oter Yisrael b'tifarah" and then putting on tefillin. Only then would he recite the berachah "oter Yisrael b'tifarah," because "tifarah" - which is associated with the word "pe'er" (glory) - refers to tefillin, as Hashem told Yehezkel (24:17), "Your 'pe'er' [tefillin] shall be worn on your head."

However, according to the Kabbalists, one should first recite all the birchot haTorah, and then put on tallit and tefillin before the recitation of the "akeidah." Some Ashkenazim have the practice of putting on tallit and tefillin before birchot hashahar, and then touch the tefillin (first shel yad, then shel rosh) when reciting the berachah, "oter Yisrael b'tifarah."

Reciting Keri'at Shema with Tefillin

The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (14b) cites Ula's comment that "whoever recites keri'at shema without tefillin is considered as offering false testimony about himself." This is because keri'at shema includes the pasuk, "And you shall tie them as a sign on your arm, and they shall be 'totafot' between your eyes," referring to tefillin, and this individual recites this pasuk without wearing tefillin. A second explanation is that such an individual accepts upon himself the yoke of Heaven and declares his faith in the oneness of God without fulfilling his own proclamation by wearing tefillin. Therefore, one must wear tefillin at least while reciting keri'at shema and shemoneh esreih. Nevertheless, if one currently does not have tefillin and is concerned that by the time he gets access to tefillin the time for keri'at shema will pass, he should recite keri'at shema without tefillin, and then recite it again when he puts on his tefillin. Such a person is not considered as testifying false about himself, whereas his failure to put on tefillin did not result from disdain for the missvah or his rejection of the responsibility of missvot, and because he will put tefillin on later.

One must wear tefillin during shemoneh esreih, as well. The Gemara (Berachot 15a) says that one who wears tefillin and recites keri'at shema and shemoneh esreih is considered as having completely accepted upon himself the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven. Furthermore, the Zohar (83b; 141a) writes that if one prays without tefillin, his prayer is not considered a prayer.

If one is concerned that if he waits until he has tefillin to recite shemoneh esreih he will miss the ssibur's tefilah, and he will not find a minyan later, some authorities say that he should nevertheless wait until he has tefillin, as tefilah with tefillin is more important than tefilah with a minyan. Some, however, argue that it is preferable to pray with a minyan without tefillin, and then put on tefillin when he can and recite keri'at shema. As for the final halachah, one who feels that he can concentrate on his tefilah properly while praying privately should wait until he has tefillin and then pray privately with tefillin. Otherwise, he should pray with the ssibur without tefillin and then put on tefillin and recite keri'at shema.


The sacred brothers felt that Yosef was plotting to incite their father against them, designing a scheme to take the berachot from them and reject them the way Esav was rejected. They therefore concluded that he was to be considered a "rodef," one who plots to kill another. They cast him into a pit and then, shockingly, the pasuk tells us, "They sat to eat bread."

The heart simply refuses to believe - their brother had just been thrown into a pit, and right away they are sitting around to eat peacefully?! Rav Aharon Hakohen zs"l, the son-in-law of the Hafess Hayyim zs"l, shed light on this entire incident beautifully with the following explanation.

When one is hungry, he is generally impatient, short-tempered, rash and irritable. "Before a person eats, he has two hearts" (Bava Batra 12); "Bread in the morning - releases jealousy and brings in love" (Bava Kama 82). The brothers therefore thought to themselves, let's not sentence him when we are hungry and melancholy. Let's first eat and settle our minds, and then we can discuss the matter with a clear head and avoid rash decisions. Indeed, this is exactly what happened. After they ate they decided that distancing him from their land would be sufficient. What a powerful lesson this is for us regarding the process the decision-making.

It should be conducted carefully, not recklessly, out of anger and animosity. One should take time, and reach his decisions with a clear head and rational sate of mind.


This Shabbat eve, in tens of thousands of Jewish homes the Chanukah candles will burn together with the Shabbat candles. One candle the first night, two the second, then three, and so on. The Chanukah candles symbolize the light of Torah, the radiance of faith, the shimmering of missvot. It symbolizes victory over darkness, over the emptiness of heresy, the darkness of straying from the path, the void felt by those detached from their heritage.

The Hafess Hayyim zs"l would often say that today, tomorrow or perhaps the next day, the shofar of Moshiah will sound, the redemption will come, and then, as we were promised, the entire nation will joyfully accept the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven. Today, this seems almost impossible. There are just so many who know absolutely nothing, like a blind person in a brilliantly lit room, detached from their Judaism, bereft of any knowledge, submerged in a campaign of hatred and attack. How will they suddenly change their ways, shift their direction, adopt a completely new world-view and way of life?

The Hafess Hayyim gave an example to explain how this works. A caravan of merchants were on their way back from the market, their wagons filled to the rim with merchandise. They got delayed along the way and the sun set as they were right in the middle of the woods. Given the dangers of sleeping in the woods with the dangerous animals, they decided to move onward in the dark until they cleared the woods. Then they could stay in the inn at the outskirts of the next city. They urged the horses on, but their way was blocked by thick branches. They managed to surmount this obstacle and continued in the clear until they hit the next barrier. Their legs were scraped by the sharp thorns and they winced from pain as the branches cut their skin. They went through a most frustrating, agonizing and terrorizing night of travel in the dark forest. Morning finally broke, and they saw the paved path just a hand's-breadth next to them. All night long it was so close, yet so far.

Similarly, said the Hafess Hayyim, when the Moshiah will come the light will shine - the light of faith, the light of understanding: "The land will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem, like the water fills the ocean."

Once the light shines, everything will become crystal clear, to the point that we will ask ourselves, how were we so wrong all this time??

We are recalled of something that happened many years ago, during the First World War, when the Russians falsely accused the Jews of spying on behalf of the Germans. They claimed that the strings of the "eruv" were in fact secret telephone wires and the tefillin were communication devices. They therefore ordered a process of "ethnic cleansing" - every fifty kilometers that were traversed, the Jews were to be expelled. A unit of cruel Cossacks were drafted for this purpose. Painfully, some Jews joined them, as well.

The city of Berditchev was captured, and the Jews were ordered to leave. However, the order never made it into the Bet Midrash of the yeshivah, where hundreds of students studied with great diligence and enthusiasm.

Suddenly, the door broke open and a band of Cossacks appeared at the doorway. The general came forward and shouted, "Who's in charge here?"

Rav Shemuel Waintraub, the rosh yeshivah, stepped forward from his place reverently. With one look he could tell that the Cossack standing opposite him was a "tinok shenishbah," a Jew who was raised as a Cossack. He moved closer and gazed into his eyes. He then whispered softly, "If you join us, you are guaranteed a brilliant future."

The words were repeated by the general. After a moment he recovered and said, "A brilliant future awaits me in the Czar's army, too. But, if you can persuade me with your righteousness, I will join your side."

"This will take an hour or so," said the rosh yeshivah.

The general turned around and sent the battalion away. The Rosh Yeshivah took him to a corner and spoke with him for an hour. That day, a new student joined the yeshivah, a student who participated in all the yeshivah's wanderings. He later became the rosh yeshivah's brother-in-law and loyal assistant in the administration of the yeshivah. Rav Yosef Glick emerged as one of the great gedolim of Lithuania and was appointed as the rabbi of the city of Telichen. He died a martyr's death together with the rest of that city on the day after Tisha B'Av, 5701. May Hashem avenge his blood.

Indeed, this is the power of the light that drives away the darkness. The Greeks ruled in Eress Yisrael for one hundred and eighty years. During that time, they effectively extinguished every ray of light and spread a blanket of darkness over eight generations marked by detachment from Judaism. Suddenly, the light of rebellion was sparked, the sacred service of the Almighty was renewed, and the entire nation returned to its source. It accepted upon itself the yoke of Torah and missvot, and the spark continued to grow into a brilliant source of light.

Like in those days, so shall it be during our times - when the redemption comes, speedily and in our days.


How much money has been poured into the red and black posters in Israel, the intense campaign of, "We Don't Give Up - End Violence!!"? How effective have these ads been in lowering the violence rate in schools? Has the number of bullies subsided, are there fewer pocketknives or weapons? Has the cursing moderated, have the beatings calmed, have the hostile plots against one another lessened? After the widespread campaign, have the Israeli public schools become safer for teachers and more pleasant for students, the silent majority - and for the victims of beatings?

Unfortunately, the Torah educational system in Israel does not yet include all of Israel's children, not even the majority. But it does constitute a sizable percentage. Would it not have been worthwhile to allocate to the Torah educational system some of the funds poured into the futile ad campaign, as a sign of recognition by the Ministry of Education? A sign of recognition that the Torah systems have no pocketknives, bullies, beatings or curses? Recognition of the fact that it educates children towards proper conduct, pleasant manners, etiquette, honoring parents, cleanliness of speech and kindness?

Could we expect that instead of trying to curtail its efforts, to strangle its resources, to uproot its programs and undermine its activity, instead of stealing and freezing its elementary funding - the Ministry would recognize and respect the fact that there is in Israel a beautiful education that doesn't need colorful, ineffective signs and posters!

In truth, the secular education is not to blame, the teachers are not at fault. For this is only natural - "And the pit was empty, there was no water, but there were snakes and scorpions." There is no such thing as empty space, an absolute vacuum. If there is no water - if there is no Torah, which is compared to water - then there are snakes and scorpions. There is unrestrained permissiveness, violence that knows no limit. There is the loss of any sense of obligation, the disintegration of discipline, frightening acts of cruelty, frivolity, corruption and heresy: "Every head is ill, every heart is distressed."

Those parents who don't just give up, for whom their children's education is too precious to reconcile themselves with the ongoing anarchy and growing wave of violence, will send their children to educational systems featuring Torah and heritage, education that doesn't need colorful posters.



Everyone already knows about cholesterol, the vitamins and minerals that are or are not in any given food. But one of the less-known elements in food is zinc. How does zinc contribute to a person's health? Zinc is a necessary component of many enzymes within the body, involved in processing the materials of proteins, carbohydrates and alcohol. Zinc assists in building the bones of the skeleton, has an affect on one's mood, and plays an important role in the development of the immune system and the defense against germs. But that's not all. Zinc also helps one recover from wounds, furthers the healing of skin and recovery from surgery. It has been proven that wounds after operations heal faster when the patient takes zinc.

The body receives zinc through the ingestion of various foods. The major sources are dry legumes, nuts, eggs and meat. However, zinc is not completely absorbed by the body. Experts say that the body benefits from only 50% of the zinc that enters through the mouth. The reason is that a certain acid in the stomach disrupts the zinc's absorption and forces it out of the body. Phosphorus also causes the zinc not to be absorbed into the body. Artificial additives, beer and soft drinks are also responsible for the zinc's banishment from the body.

How much zinc does a person need to stay healthy? Just a little; perhaps even just a drop. How important is that drop? Exceedingly important.

One must ensure that he eats properly in order to receive the right amount of zinc for the maintenance of good health. It would seem that in other areas of life, too, just a small drop is required, just a drop of thought in order to reach great accomplishments in life. For example, most people have no idea why they came into the world at all. Not too many of them, however, invest too much thought into this most fundamental question.

Nevertheless, one who does think about it will find two reasons for the creation of man: a practical reason, what people call "tachlis," and a second reason that serves to reach the practical reason. The end itself requires just a drop of thought and effort to discover; one need just to open a tiny opening, as it were, and then one will realize that the purpose behind his existence merely serves this practical purpose, of fulfilling the divine will.


The Faithful Student (8)

A Story From the Book "HaSaraf miBrisk,"
the Story of the Life of Mahari"l Diskin zs"l

Flashback: Chetzkl the Smuggler requested a blessing from the ssadik Reb Nechumke, who promised him that ssedakah saves from all calamity. Chetzkl therefore pledged to give the ssadik twenty rubles each week to support the family of a wealthy lawyer who was arrested for his support of the Polish underground and sentenced to two years in prison.

Two years later, the lawyer was released from prison and returned home. One cannot describe the family's exuberance at his return, the emotion and tears that overcame the family. When the wave of emotion subsided, the lawyer looked around the house and saw that everything was as he left it.

The luxurious carpets, the crystal chandeliers, all the home's lavish trimmings - everything had been kept perfectly. "How did you manage during these hard times?" he asked his wife. "All this time I worried about you.

I kept wondering, how are you being supported, how are you managing feeding the family!"

"A miracle was performed for us," she explained. "A certain Jew came each week to give us money."

The lawyer's eyes winced. "At what rate of interest?!" he exclaimed in panic.

"You wouldn't believe it - not even as a loan!" she answered. "You're right - that is unbelievable," he muttered. "I would have wanted to see him. In my field I learned that nobody does anything for free. Don't rely on people!"

Suddenly, the sound of the knocker rang throughout the house. "Here he is," said the woman, as she made her way to the door. Reb Nechumke stood at the doorway, his eyes turned downwards. "Is anything new?" he asked. "Well, you did tell me that Hashem has the ability to help," she answered enigmatically.

"Of course, madam. He can and does help. In the meantime, please take this," and he handed her the bills.

From the back of the house a thunderous thud disrupted their conversation.

The terror-stricken voice of the maid immediately followed: "Quick, madam!

Hurry - your husband fainted!"

The woman's face turned pale and hurried inside, Reb Nechumke following after her. In the main room he saw a man sprawled out on the carpet, the maid leaning over him, and the wife holding in face in despair. He decided to take charge: "Do you have smelling salts? Bring it here, with a wet towel and beer!"

to be continued.


"And the pit was empty, it had no water"

The Gemara understood the pasuk as implying that the pit had no water, but did have snakes and scorpions. Rabbi Yeshayahu Di Trani zs"l asked, how do we know that the pit had specifically snakes and scorpions? True, the pasuk indicates that something besides water was in the pit. But from where do we derive that snakes and scorpions occupied the pit? Maybe it had mud or stones? He answered that the continuation of the pasuk contains the hint: "They sat to eat" ("vayeshvu le'echol") which may also be read as "veyesh bo le'echol," there is in it to eat, alluding to deadly, biting creatures such as snakes and scorpions.

"And the pit was empty, it had no water"

"It had no water, but did have snakes and scorpions." How did Hazal know that the pit contained snakes and scorpions? The Hid'a zs"l explained that the letters of the words "ein bo" (not in it) stand for the words, "aval nehashim v'akrabim yesh bo" - but snakes and scorpions were in it!

"And the pit was empty, it had no water"

The Ar"I Hakadosh zs"l also addressed this issue, how did Hazal know that the pit contained specifically snakes and scorpions? Maybe it had sand, stones or mud? He answered that the phrase, "And the pit was empty" implies that the pit was totally empty. But the continuation, "it had no water," implies that it did contain other things. How can we reconcile this apparent contradiction? The pit must have therefore contained snakes and scorpions, who find hiding places inside the cracks and holes in the sides of the pit. As such, the pit was empty and also contained other things besides water.

This also answers the question that many have raised regarding the halachah that if one falls into a pit full of snakes and scorpions, his wife is allowed to remarry, as we assume that the man will undoubtedly be bitten and killed. If so, how did Yosef survive the pit? The answer is that one is bitten when he falls on top of the snakes and scorpions and they bite to defend themselves. But when they hide in the crevices in the pit, it is not definite that he will be bitten, and, indeed, they did not harm the ssadik.

"And the pit was empty, it had no water"

Rabbenu Ovadia Seforno zs"l explained that Hazal derived the fact that the pit contained snakes and scorpions from the phrase "it had no water" ("ein bo mayim"), which appears also in Sefer Devarim (8:15): "Who brings you through the great, awesome desert, with poisonous snakes and scorpions, and thirst, without water ('ein bo mayim')." Just as there "ein bo mayim" involved the existence of snakes and scorpions, so is the implication of "ein bo mayim" in our context.

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